Esther, Isaac, Yutaro, and I took a trip to LA from March 13th to March 17th. Although I went to LA for spring break during my senior year of college in 2011, it still felt like this was my first time visiting the city - probably because this time I took more initiative in planning the activities and researching the city, and oh yeah - actually having an income and not being a broke college student helps.
Here's a rundown of what we did over the course of the trip as well as a map of the stops we made.
Los Angeles is a huge city. When people think of New York City, they probably envision tall skyscrapers, crowded streets, and Times Square. It wasn't until I started living in NYC that I learned about all of the different boroughs and neighborhoods - each with their own personalities.
When I think of LA, I imagine laid back locals, beaches and sunshine. While there was certainly a lot of all of the above, this trip was the first time I had an opportunity to explore the city.
Flight got in at 3:30pm. We took a shuttle over to Enterprise, picked up our rental car, and made a beeline to none other than...
This place is so hyped up. The Shake Shack of the west. Personally, I think Five Guys is my favorite burger joint, but In-N-Out and Shake Shack both have special places in my heart. As does Wendy's. And Taco Bell.
The sauce and other goodies on top of the fries are called Animal Style - something along the lines of a Secret Sauce. It reminded me of McDonald's Big Mac sauce.
After checking into our Airbnb apartment, which was located in Venice Beach a few blocks away from the beach and Abbot Kinney, we drove northeast to Koreatown and walked around. The main thing I remember about the K-Town in LA is that it is HUGE compared to the one in NYC, which is mostly concentrated on one small street. LA K-Town is much larger and everything is very spaced out. Bars, restaurants and stores line certain streets, but for the most part there are a bunch of plazas next to each other.
We put our names down at a Korean BBQ restaurant called Hae Jang Chon. It took a whopping two hours for us to get seated, but we were able to walk around and even get some snacks and drinks before we ate. Oh wait, I almost forgot to mention the best part... it was all you can eat for only $23 per person. DO YOU KNOW HOW INSANE THAT IS? We ate like royalty.
Oreo Shaved Ice
Our second day in LA was very relaxing. We woke up and got brunch at The Tasting Kitchen, which was located on a really cool street called...
My manager, Tommy, recommended that we definitely check out this place out. I'm glad we did. It's an entire street filled with interesting and unique (and pricey) shops, great restaurants, and a really chilled out atmosphere (for lack of a better phrase).
Kind of like a Hipster Paradise, but in a happy, positive, and not-trying-too-hard kind of way. After lunch we did some damage to our wallets at a few stores, which is when I copped this badass cap:
Venice Beach & Boardwalk
This was the location of our Airbnb apartment, as mentioned earlier. Venice beach was super clean and surprisingly relaxing. We visited at a great time because it wasn't crowded at all and the weather was perfect.
All along the beach was the Venice Beach Boardwalk, which is more like a wide concrete street lined with street performers, food stands, souvenir shops, and every kind of person you can imagine. In a weird way, it felt a bit like walking around Times Square - extremely crowded, chaotic, and tourist trappy. However, the beach is literally within walking distance and there is no traffic at all. We walked around after lazing on the beach for a couple of hours.
Santa Monica Downtown
We recouped at the apartment in the early evening and then made our way out for dinner. Unfortunately, traffic is an absolute nightmare in LA. It took us about 40 minutes to travel three miles on Main St. Luckily, at this point we finally managed to get the Bluetooth on the car working properly and were able to play our own music.
We were fools and didn't make reservations at Mercado, our first choice restaurant. After getting close, we called them and found out that the wait was going to be 1.5 hours. TURRIBLE! Instead, we found a place called Blue Stove which was extremely close and ate there instead. Just FYI - would NOT recommend Blue Stove. Although I didn't dislike anything that we ordered, it was a pretty unmemorable meal.
We spent the rest of the night walking around the downtown area, which felt a lot like downtown Birhmingham in Michigan. There were street performers and a lot of tourists, but it was nowhere nearly as crowded as the Venice Beach Boardwalk. We spent an embarassingly large amount of time at a toy store where Isaac and I bought some kinetic sand. HIGHLY RECOMMEND if you are easily amused by useless but marginally cool things. No but seriously, it's pretty cool. I have it sitting on my desk at work now.
Our third day was our most "productive" day in terms of destinations visited. We woke up in the late morning and got brunch at a restaurant called Kreation. This was the first place we went to without consulting Yelp. The 3.5 star rating is pretty accurate - I would even consider knocking that score down to a 3 or 2.5. The service was poor, and the food was mediocre. However, the environment and ambience of the restaurant were awesome and a great way to start the day. It's actually the building in the picture of the Abbot Kinney street sign I posted earlier in this entry.
Esther, Yutaro, and I dropped Isaac off at one of his friend's places after brunch, and the three of us drove to UCLA campus for a visit. First impression?
"Asian girls everywhere... UCLA." - Childish Gambino
Seriously, though. There were a lot of Asians on campus. Not a bad thing at all, just something that was very noticeable. Walking around campus made me think back to my own college application process.
After walking around the campus and strolling around, I feel that I would have really enjoyed doing my undergraduate studies on the west coast. The entire vibe is different - there's just a laid-back atmosphere that made me feel comfortable.
Rodeo Dr. & Little Tokyo
After spending a couple hours at UCLA, we picked Isaac back up and drove on down to Rodeo Dr. - AKA Super Rich Street. We probably saw at least three or four Lamborghini's, Maserati's, Tesla's, Ferrari's EACH! Definitely also spotted two Rolls Royce's. This is where Julia Roberts shops in Pretty woman.
We kept driving and took a turn up to a residential area where we slowly crept around in our Ford Escape and gawked at all of the excessively extravagant yet undeniably desirable houses. These home owners are definitely raking in some serious dough.
After our plebeian expedition of Rodeo Dr., we drove to Little Tokyo and ate at Honda Ya Izakaya. Delicious meal - we went pretty HAM here. I don't even have pictures because all we did was gorge ourselves.
Today was hiking day! When Esther and I visited Puerto Rico, we went on a hike together in El Yunque Rainforest. I've gone on a lot of hikes with my parents in the past and have always had a blast. For this trip, we planned out a late morning hike to Escondido Falls in Malibu.
We woke up and got sandwiches at a nearby bakery called Gjusta. After buying coffee, a breakfast sandwich, and also a sandwich for lunch after reaching the apex of our hike, we finally headed out.
The hike was just under four miles round trip. The beginning of the trail was along side a road that tooks us through some very large and rich houses. After about 20 minutes along that road, we were led to a dirt trail that took us through lightly forested paths that began to wind steeply up a mountainside.
We got lost a few times going up, but eventually made our way to the top of the trail, which was supposed to be a waterfall about 120 feet in height. However, due to the severe drought in California, what remained of the waterfall were just a few constant streams of trickling water. Regardless, we enjoyed our time at the top and ate lunch there. We even got to climb into a cave that normally would have been behind the waterfall.
On our last day, we woke up early in the morning, cleaned, and packed. Headed out for the airport around 11:15 and picked up some In-N-Out again to prepare us for our journey back to the cold and brutal reality of NYC.
East Coast vs. West Coast?
I felt like this was the first time I got to experience the west coast. Other than spring break in college and a few interviews in the Bay Area, I haven't had time to just hang out in the area on my own schedule. The people on the west coast definitely made me feel more "at home" than the people on the east coast.
Something about their care-free attitude really appealed to me, and the weather was amazing. I never thought weather would be important for deciding where I want to live, but after experiencing perfect weather and then returning home to freezing temperatures, I'm starting to realize just how much climate impacts my everyday lifestyle.
For now, NYC is definitely home. But this trip made me want to travel a lot more not just to vacation and disconnect from work, but also to start exploring other cities and learning more about what kind of environment makes me happy. I think of these more like scouting excursions for potential "settling down" locations for Future Mike.
Anyway, thanks for reading until the end. Until next time!